UFC Rochester: Rafael Dos Anjos Vs. Kevin Lee
Updated: Sep 8, 2020
UFC Fight Night: Dos Anjos Vs. Lee
Blue Cross Arena, Rochester, NY May 18, 2019
Rafael Dos Anjos vs Kevin Lee -110
We expect Kevin Lee to beat Rafael Dos Anjos in the main event of UFC Rochester tonight. Lee boasts edges in most all important natural and physical categories we consider, such as reach, age and fighting ability. We estimate it unlikely Dos Anjos will effect his usual aggressive, bullying style against such competition. As such, we are comfortable backing the slight underdog to collect the win.
Foremost, Kevin Lee has an important natural physical advantage over Rafael dos Anjos: a massive seven inch reach advantage. This matters as research we have found suggests win rates in the 70% ballpark for fighters with arms at least 3.5 inches longer than their foe's.
In addition to being able to hit fighters when they can not hit you, Lee's edge in the reach department is also critical to his takedown success, allowing him to lock his hands together from less than perfect positions. Lee averages 3.10 takedowns per 15 minutes. Georges St. Pierre is the all-time leader of the welterweight division in takedowns landed, with 89, in about 368 total minutes of fight time -- or 3.63 per 15 minutes.
Additionally, there is a case to be made that, at this point in his career, Dos Anjos is several years past his prime. The following examination of Dos Anjos' significant strikes landed as a percentage of all significant strikes scored in his fights supports this thinking. At the end of calendar 2015, for instance, Dos Anjos had rattled off a five-fight streak where he threw roughly seven (and caught only three) out of every ten heavy shots landed. In stark contrast, these days the octagon vet struggles to at least give as good as he takes.
In fairness, Dos Anjos has suffered ups and downs with his hand game before. For example, after his 2011 split decision loss to Gleison Tibau (which marked his second defeat in three fights), Rafael saw his arm raised after nine of his next ten matchups. However, we think this time is different. The first Brazilian lightweight champion in UFC history is now celebrating 11 years of activity with the company, and that's a long time in the fight game. For years, we have been exploring questions surrounding fighter longevity, and have uncovered evidence that fighters generally start to exhibit decline sometime around year nine.
Similarly, historically, aging fighters facing significantly younger opposition have also found themselves at a disadvantage. The eight year age gap between Dos Anjos and Lee is consistent with win rates for the more youthful combatant in the 60-70% range.
Dos Anjos' win-loss record in recent years appears to jibe with the generalizations related to the toll Father Time ultimately exacts. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu expert is 3-4 in his last seven fights, including back-to-back losses by unanimous decision most recently.
Separately, when the octagon cage slams closed this evening, Kevin Lee will find himself pitted against a left-handed fighter for the third time in his UFC career. Lee had no problems with Michael Chiesa in the 2017 headline event of UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs. Lee. Lee landed 22 of 30 attempted significant strikes, while absorbing only four meaningful blows. This barrage forced Chiesa to give up his back and allowed Lee to secure a rear naked choke that ended the action in the first round.
On the other hand, Francisco Trinaldo, another lefty, was able to significantly outstrike Lee in their March 2017 meeting at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Gastelum. Nonetheless, after losing round 1 in rather lopsided fashion, Lee was more competitive on his feet in the second period, before (again) closing the show with a rear naked choke about midway through.
And finally, in 2015's UFC Fight Night: Mir vs Duffee, Lee beat switch-stance pugilist, James Moontasri, by, you guessed it, rear naked choke. This fight went less than three minutes into the first round.
Thus, while Fightnomics has observed that all fighters perform a bit worse against southpaws, Lee's history from this position hints that his advantages create enough margin to overcome any lack of comfort in defending shots launched from his foe's left rather than right side, so we are not too worried about this wrinkle.
Perversely, we have been keen to profit, over the years, from mixed martial artists' unwillingness to ride off into the sunset when that time comes. Today might in fact be another such opportunity to cash in on the an aging fighter's attempt to cling to the idea of the good old days.
Rafael dos Anjos' is off consecutive losses to Usman and Covington, noted wrestlers. We estimate that Kevin Lee will represent the same effective grappling technique that gave RDA fits in his most recent losing efforts. As a loss here eliminates a post-peak Dos Anjos from any possible title contention, Lee tonight is the embodiment of the game moving beyond the weathered, 34 year old prizefighter.
In contrast to the perspective of the bookmakers, see the bigger, stronger, younger, more active Lee's prospects this evening as being much better than 47.7% implied by -110 price. We are happy to back the slight dog here (Dos Anjos is currently listed at -120).